Early ADS WOTY nominations posted

Dennis Preston preston at MSU.EDU
Wed Dec 19 23:54:39 UTC 2007

I vigorously oppose Ron's anti-frivolity stance. Which of our few
sillinesses will he oppose next? Looks like a slippery slope to me.


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>Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>Poster:       RonButters at AOL.COM
>Subject:      Early ADS WOTY nominations posted
>I obviously screwed up in neglecting to put quote marks around compounds in
>my Google searches, but Grant's (much better) statistical procedures yield
>results similar to mine, it seems to me: TRUTHINESS is about as rare
>and four times less used than AVUNCULAR. Not a very good record for the "Word
>of the Year," is it? I don't see much evidence of "popularity" in a word that
>is only marginally more widely used than OTIOSE.
>I do agree with Grant that, without ADS-L, TRUTHINESS would be even less
>significant than it is (though the fact that it was putatively created by a
>popular television personality, who made a big to-do about his cleverness and
>ownership, was arguably more important than WOTY in bringing the word to the
>attention of the pblic at large). The fact that the WOTY festival
>may have changed
>the course of lexicographical history in this very minor way is indeed mildly
>I also am grateful to Grant and Wayne for the enormous amount of serious work
>they put into the process. I just wish that the final selection processs were
>not the frivolous carnival that it always is. I do appreciate Grant's point
>that what ADS does with WOTY, however silly and unscientific it may often be,
>is better than "the loud, peevish heralds of language apocalypse" one hears
>elsewhere. I just wish that our results could be less frivolous than theirs.
>In a message dated 12/19/07 5:16:10 PM, gbarrett at WORLDNEWYORK.ORG writes:
>>  I appreciate what you're saying, Ron, but the problem with
>>  "truthiness" isn't that it might be failing--it isn't failing; see
>>  below--but that our vote is what most spurred its popularity. We
>>  stepped off the path and crushed a butterfly and now we've changed
>>  the future. In other words, we went from language observers to
>>  language changers. Before our vote "truthiness" was a nothing word,
>>  barely a blip on the lexicon, and would surely have died an unmourned
>>  death. Not now, though.
>>  Re-doing your searches in Google News--which indexes more than 4000
>>  English-language publications over the last 30 days or so--with the
>>  specification that only articles not containing the following words
>>  be returned, gives different results. I have let Google News attempt
>>  to determine duplicates and do not count them here.
>>  NOT dictionary AND NOT "word of the year" AND NOT colbert -AND NOT
>>  merriam-webster AND NOT dialect
>>  truthfulness 608 hits
>>  "information superhighway" OR "information super-highway" OR
>>  "information highway" OR "info superhighway" OR "info super-highway"
>>  OR "info highway"194 hits
>>  avuncular 113 hits
>>  "ping pong diplomacy" OR "pingpong diplomacy" 42 hits
>>  TRUTHINESS 28 hits
>>  recondite 21 hits
>>  otiose 9 hits
>>  "semblance of truth" 7 hits
>>  "concierge medicine" 7 hits
>>  "embedded giving" 5 hits
>>  "suicide tourism" OR "suicide tourist" OR "suicide tourists" 8 hits--
>>  only two do not have to do with the documentary film called "Suicide
>>  Tourist."
>>  bushlips 0 hits
>>  > But selecting what are obviously stuntwords with little chance of
>>  > adding to the genuine vocabulary of American English makes the
>>  > whole contest look like pretty much just a giant publicity stunt,
>>  > put together for their own amusement by a coterie of academics
>>  > seeking one moment a year of fame.
>>  Publicity for the society, yes. Amusing for some, yes. Fame for the
>>  individuals, not from her.
>>  It's a good deal of work to collect these things throughout the year,
>  > to do the legwork required to prove that they have legs, and then to
>>  write reasonable definitions for a term that might not yet be fixed
>>  in the lexicon. This year I've put in about 10 to 15 hours a week
>>  hunting new words, twenty or thirty hours in compiling and composing
>>  my candidate list, and still more time in trying to explain its
>>  contents to journalists. Wayne, I'm sure, does a even more work.
>>  The WOTY contest is an antidote to the loud, peevish heralds of
>>  language apocalypse who seem to reign in high places. Our message:
>>  language change is normal, harmless, and a lot of fun if you look at
>>  it the right way. I think it's a message worth spreading.
>>  Grant Barrett
>>  gbarrett at worldnewyork.org
>>  ------------------------------------------------------------
>>  The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
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Dennis R. Preston
University Distinguished Professor
Department of English
Morrill Hall 15-C
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48864 USA

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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